How to make death a love project to mark the end of life is quite a question at the moment. Mourners can’t be physically close up. In hospitals there are tough restrictions on visitor admission. It’s really difficult, and yet I’d like to highlight in this post that thinking and talking about how to make death the best love project possible, will make a difference.
There’s great sadness when saying goodbye to someone you love at any time. Now conditions have changed suddenly and people report the loss of ritual grieving, alongside the losses and grief of the death. Stories speak of loss of contact, loss of comfort, loss of community, loss of warmth. It’s clear from reading accounts of ICUs and funerals that many are struggling.
Medical staff talk of how hard it is with Covid-19 patients not to be able to hold their patient’s hand, to have to communicate to them through gloves and goggles right at the end of life.
‘I have just experienced a social distancing funeral with 7 of us for both my parents who died of coronavirus at home, not being able to hug your distraught sister too painful to put into words,’ says Francina on Twitter. Merryn says, ‘My grandmother just died in the UK. Expected and she was ready. But hard not to be able to go back to support my Mum and for there to be no funeral.’
In ‘Death, a love project‘ a key message is that it’s somewhat easier to bear loss when family and friends know what the person wanted. This entails thinking and doing some work ahead. Doing this is especially valuable now, in relation to future health care and to the kind of send off that would be suitable.
How to make death a love project: what do you want at end of life?
It’s always important to have clarified what future treatment would be your preference, and to have a clear understanding between you and your medical treatment decision-maker. Now it’s even more important. We’re in a time of uncertainty. There are different circumstances than before if you have to be in hospital, especially with a critical condition. You may have seen this New York Times article which highlighted that ‘we should not be discussing our loved one’s wishes for the first time when they are in an ICU bed, voiceless and pinned in place by machines and tubes.’
Writing an advance care directive and choosing a medical treatment decision-maker is a way in which you can take practical control. If you find the forms difficult, consult your doctor. You can be quite old school about it and simply write a letter.
I hope that at the moment you’ve got a bit of time to consider your wishes with others, to write them down, and to share your preferences in conversations with your family and friends. Whatever your age and stage it’s good to get something on paper. It will help you. It will help others. Here are forms and resources.
When a person dies after having treatment in ICU that they wouldn’t have wanted, such as time on a ventilator, it’s much more likely that the bereaved will have a different grief than if there were a simpler death with less intervention.
How to make death a love project: thinking about a funeral and saying goodbye
In ‘Death, a love project’ I write about the value of:
- The reassuring role of a companion. Perhaps he or she is a family member or a friend. Perhaps a funeral director, a counsellor or a minister. At a time when we’re experiencing such distance between us, planning can be difficult. Support will make a real difference to the rituals that help with your grieving. Please get in touch if you’d like my help with this.
- Holding multiple or successive events to say goodbye when you’ve lost someone you love. Yes there are many restrictions on funerals now, in this time of distress and difficulty. You can make the Zoom or Crowdcast funeral the first of a number of events in which you celebrate the person. Online platforms can create a special intimacy. For funeral get-togethers, perhaps what helps most is when people let go of expectations of how it should be, or how it might have been. Down the track you can hold an event that does bring people together physically.
- Making a good choice of independent funeral director. Shop around. Even if you go on to funeral quote site, make sure you have a real conversation with the funeral director. Remember that in Victoria you can purchase cremations directly from the cemetery trust of your choice. Don’t rush
How to create a love project is about what you want in life and how you want to live. In restricted times it’s a great challenge for families and friends to be separated from someone they love very much when they are ill and dying. Nonetheless thinking about future health care and how to say goodbye in these times may ease the pain to some extent in a time of suffering.